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What’s the Major Differences Between a Federal Resume & Civilian Resume?

Resumes can be divided into two main categories: civilian – or private-sector – resumes and federal resumes. There are several major differences between them, and writing a federal resume is often considered to be harder and more time-consuming than crafting a civilian one. That’s why a lot of applicants turn to top federal resume writing services in Denver to help them out.

If this is your first time applying for a government job, or if you’re weighing up the possibility, it’s important to understand what you’re getting into. This guide will cover all the key differences separating federal resumes from their civilian counterparts. We’ll also look at everything you need to include on your federal resume and some helpful tips to write it.

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The Big Differences Between Federal and Private Sector Resumes

There are several key aspects that make a federal resume totally different from a private sector one. Here are some of the biggest differences.

Proper Length Of A Federal Resume

When you’re writing a standard, private-sector resume, most people aim for brevity. There’s even something of an unwritten rule which states you should always try to keep your resume down to a single page if you can. Well, for federal resumes, the so-called “one-page rule” certainly doesn’t apply. In fact, most of these resumes tend to be four to five pages long by default.

This is because federal resumes require more detail than civilian resumes. They require additional sections, as well as much more detailed lists of experiences, skills, and achievements. All that information takes up space, quickly pushing the resume beyond the standard one-to-two-page limit. So, when writing a federal resume, you don’t need to worry too much about it being too long.

Some of the best federal resume examples will show you in great detail how lengthy and detailed a federal resume should be.

Level of Detail

As explained in the previous point, federal resumes are far more detailed than civilian ones. On a civilian resume, applicants are often encouraged to trim down certain sections or leave out certain bits of information. You might be encouraged, for example, to not list all your duties for previous roles or to focus purely and simply on the most relevant info.

With federal resumes, it’s a very different story. The HR specialists and recruiters reading these kinds of resumes typically want to see as much detail as possible. They want to know exactly what you’ve been doing in your previous roles. Additionally, they want to see lots of evidence that you’re the right person for the job in question.

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Obligatory Sections

There are lots of different ways to write a private sector resume. While you typically need to include key sections, like “Experience” and “Qualifications,” you have a certain level of freedom about the rest. You could decide to add a “Career Objective” section for example or leave out the “Accomplishments” section if you don’t feel it’s needed.

For federal resumes, the requirements are much stricter. Every resume must include certain sections, like an “Accomplishments” section. That’s where you’ll list all your biggest and most relevant achievements. Federal resumes also tend to include expanded “Experience” and “Contact” sections compared to civilian resumes.


The ultimate purpose of any resume – federal or civilian – is to help you get a job. However, the actual value and impact of these two documents can be quite different. A private sector resume is almost considered a “marketing tool,” that is used to “sell” the individual to a prospective employer. A federal resume is much more of an informative document.

As such, the language used in federal resumes tends to be more to the point and descriptive, rather than persuasive. It’s designed to convey as much detail to the recruiter as possible, letting them know all about the applicant’s history and achievements.

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Every resume needs keywords nowadays, especially with so many of them being fed through applicant tracking software. The keywords help your resume pass the software scans and have a better chance of being read by a real person. They’re needed for both civilian and federal resumes but are particularly prevalent and relevant for the latter.

Indeed, most federal resumes will simply have lists of valuable keywords right at the top of the page, like “Team Leader” or “Logistics Planner.” These keywords are often written entirely in capital letters, making it very clear who the candidate is and what they have to offer. Given that recruiters can receive hundreds of resumes for the same role, these keywords help them quickly separate the strong candidates from the rest.

Tips for Writing a Federal Resume

Here are some helpful tips and tricks to make federal resume writing a little easier:

  1. Don’t approach it like a civilian: As this guide has shown, civilian and federal resumes are two different entities. Don’t write your federal resume like you would a civilian one.

  2. Lots of detail: Don’t worry about including too many details. For these types of resumes, it’s vital to include lots of info about your former employers, qualifications, duties, and so on.

  3. Show proof: Look at the “Requirements” and “Occupational Questionnaire” sections of the job you’re going for. Then, prove in your resume that you meet all listed requirements, with detailed examples.

  4. Add metrics: Use metrics, such as numbers and statistics, to explain your achievements and past duties. Additionally, try to avoid any vague terms – always add detail and data where possible.

  5. Check for mistakes: With federal resumes being so long and containing so much content, it’s easy for little typos and mistakes to slip through. Double-check your resume before you submit it.

Get Help with Your Federal Resume

Given that federal resumes are so different, with their own strict requirements and formats, many people worry about writing them. This is especially true for those who have never written a federal resume before and don’t quite know where to start.

Well, help is at hand. Our professional resume writers for government jobs are ready and waiting to assist with your federal resume. We know exactly what it takes to craft a detailed, informative, and effective federal resume that really gets results. Give us a call today to learn more about how we can help.

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